Type: Trad, Alpine, 2000 ft, 15 pitches, Grade V
FA: Warren Harding, Desert Frank, et al
Page Views: 19,630 total · 131/month
Shared By: 426 on Mar 5, 2007 with improvements by Ben Kraft
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Certain Peaks: Access limited from May to October every year Details

Description

One of the jewels of the Sierra in terms of location, aesthetics and difficulty.

One of Peter Croft's "Big Four Free Climbs" of the High Sierra (see Peter's book here).

Bring your best wide/flare game if you expect to free it. 10+ at 13,500 is not an easy task.

Pitch 1: Start from the sandy ledges on top of the snowfield (see topo). Go up a clean finger/hand crack and traverse left under a small overhang (5.9). There are fixed slings just above the roof. Set the belay here or go left and up (5.7) and set the belay on a good ledge below a wide crack/chimney.

Pitch 2: Climb the crack into a steep alcove covered with an overhang (some rotten rock in the crack). Climb the overhang (5.10b, #1-3 camalots), continue and set up a belay using two old bolts.

Pitch 3: Climb the overhanging double cracks (5.10b, #1-2 camalots), continue up (5.7-8). Just below the rap slings go right around the arete and up into an uncomfortable alcove below a steep wide crack.

Pitch 4: Climb the fun wide crack which eventually turns into a 5.10a off-width. Pull the crux at the chockstone and end the pitch at a wide ledge. This pitch could be protected with small and medium nuts and cams. Wide gear (#4, #4.5 cams) is useful, though.

Pitch 5: Go up and right on a 5.6 terrain and set up belay on the right end of the ledge. You should see the Red Dihedral from here.

Pitch 6: Climb initial class 5 ledges and short 5.8 cracks into the sloping ledge at the beginning of Red Dihedral (some fixed gear). Pitch 5 and 6 could be simul-climbed.

Pitch 7: Red Dihedral. This is the most spectacular pitch on the climb. Long, sustained, and well protected 5.10a. Climb this pitch all the way to the ledge at the base of a wide flare (great site for bivy). Medium nuts, double on #1, #2 cams.

Pitch 8: Crux. Begin in a hand crack to the right and after 20 feet traverse left into a flare. Go up 5.10c off-width . It's possible to place medium gear inside the flare but the inner cracks are rotten so wide gear (up to #5 cam) is useful and assuring. The difficulties ease off to 5.8-9 after the three crappy bolts on the right. I would suggest setting a belay just above the flare, in a wide chimney. The rock here is solid. There's a good ledge higher up, on top of the chimney (supertopo indicates a belay there) but the rock quality there is crap.

Pitch 9: Climb the right wall of the chimney (5.8 medium cams), step left and finish on top of a curving chimney (5.8, loose).

Pitch 10: From here you will see tempting 5.7 cracks that go straight up. Don't go there. Start going diagonally right until you reach a ledge with boulders at the base of the final headwall. If you continue the 5.7 straight up cracks, you'll end up to the left of the ledge and will have to do a risky traverse right in suspect rock and with sparse gear (we did).

Pitch 11: Several options (see topo). The cleanest is climbing a distinct vertical 5.10a crack cutting the headwall. The easiest is going right and around the wall and climb loose class 5 up and then left. Set a belay where the 5.10a finishes.

Pitch 12: Make a short traverse right until under a system of cracks with a chimney to the right. Pitch 11 and 12 could be compressed to a single pitch by simul-climbing (on the easier option).

Pitch 14: Climb the 5.8 cracks to the ledge under the summit blocks.

Pitch 15: Climb or simul-climb the class 4-5 blocks to the summit.

This is a great and serious climb. Being on it feels like paying tribute to Warren Harding and his climbing legacy. The route can be done in 11 pitches with some simul-climbing. Also, we used crampons and fixed a rope on the snowfield the day before the climb. As of August '07, there were some fixed rap slings all the way to the base of Red Dihedral. The retreat from here could be done without losing much gear. Higher, the retreat becomes increasingly difficult.

We found Chris McNamara's description from Supertopo to be very accurate and useful. Some of the old pics from this description were linked to archives on the LA Mountaineers North American Classic website.

Location

Many books and other resources will be better than this description.

Summit Mt. Whitney and go down the Muir route to descend.

Protection

Full rack. Crux flare takes some small gear. We had 2 #4 Camalots but you could easily get by with one.

Crux was very dirty circa '96. I mined out placements before the short bolt ladder.

Photos